I was the kind of kid that ordered bubble gum ice cream and actually ate the Peeps in my Easter Basket. I complained loud and long whenever my mother put nuts in her brownies and cookies (which earned me the classic mom line, “Someday when you make your own brownies and cookies you can put whatever you want in them!”) and you couldn’t get me near a raisin if there was a chocolate chip nearby.
As an adult, I am delighted to say I now crave the “grown-up” flavors of bittersweet chocolate, dried fruit, nuts, and toasted coconut. I appreciate the natural taste and texture each of them brings, and I give them their due credit.
Apparently, so does John. We had dinner with his parents last weekend to celebrate his dad’s birthday (it was a delicious dinner, too…tortellini with mushrooms in a cream sauce, asparagus with parmesan, and a hearty wheat bread) so I gave John the latest issue of Everyday Food and asked him to pick something to bring.
I didn’t think he would go along with it, but he took the job seriously, made his choice and then helped me make it. It was actually a lot of fun, with only one minor mishap…
See those crumbs everywhere? Long story short, we ran the crust dough in the food processor too long, so the oats that are added to it at the very end ended up getting pulverized. I added more butter to try to make up for the added “oat flour”, but it still came out very crumbly. Oh well. The bars still tasted good!
I love a dense, chewy bar.
The magical ingredient here is sweetened condensed milk. For a long time, I didn’t understand what condensed milk was, or how it differed from evaporated milk. I can now share with you the following:
- Condensed milk is a thick, sweet concoction. It’s milk with the water removed and sugar added to sweeten it. The end result is canned and can last for years unopened on your grocer’s shelf….or in your pantry.
- Evaporated milk is milk with around 60% of the water removed, and no sugar is added. It is also canned, and can withstand higher temperatures without curdling than regular milk.
Condensed milk glues all of the “everything” together in these bars. Here they are, lovely and packaged and ready to go in their Sunday best.
Gooey Layered Everything Bars
Adapted from April 2011 Everyday Food
Non-stick cooking spray
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins (or dried cherries)
1 can (14 oz.) condensed milk
2 cups (7 oz.) sweetened, shredded coconut
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment, allowing for overhang on the short sides. Spritz some cooking spray onto the parchment.
- In a food processor, pulse butter, sugar, flour, and salt until it looks like coarse meal.
- Add the oats and pulse a few times, until just combined.
- Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the dish and bake until golden brown, around 20 minutes.
- Scatter chocolate chips, nuts, and raisins on top of the baked crust. Drizzle with the condensed milk and sprinkle the coconut evenly on top.
- Return to the oven for around 20 minutes, or until the coconut is toasted.
- Allow the pan to cool completely on a wire rack, then lift the parchment and remove it from the bottom of the bars.
- Use a very sharp knife to cut into 18 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temp for up to 3 days.